Not quite back to normal myself, but I can report that (aside from clearly low hotel occupancy) much of business and day to day life appears normal (or close to it) in Panama’s central provinces. This “normal” included the Inter-American Highway (which stretched from Alaska to Tierra del Fuega, except for the Darien Gap in Panama) being closed for a time for an impromptu demonstration over the call for a footbridge (not, it seemed, actually where the demonstrators were taking action…)
Panama Covid-19 update – Meanwhile, the last 2 days have seen 758 and 852 new cases reported, together with a total of 13 new fatalities. On Saturday, 14 August there were reported to be 10,654 active cases – continuing the gradual fall in numbers, with 117 in ICU and 352 in other wards.
14 AUGUST 2021
NICARAGUAN POLICE RAID LA PRENSA NEWSPAPER, CHARGE DIRECTORS WITH FRAUD
On 13 August, Yahoo News reported that Nicaraguan police had raided the office of La Prensa, the only national newspaper, after President Ortega’s government opened customs fraud and money laundering investigations against the publication. The police raid follows a months-long crackdown by Ortega’s government against its political rivals, including multiple presidential candidates, ahead of elections due in November.
US CUSTOMS HAS SEIZED THOUSANDS OF FAKE COVID VACCINATION CARDS FROM CHINA
On 13 August, The Independent reported that US Customs and seized over 3,000 cards made to look like CDC Covid vaccination certificates from China at its Memphis office.
UK: MODERN SLAVERY OFFENCES SENTENCING GUIDELINES PUBLISHED
The Sentencing Council in the UK on 12 August published new sentencing guidelines for sentencing offenders convicted of modern slavery offences in England and Wales. They give judges and magistrates dedicated guidelines to follow when sentencing offenders guilty of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and trafficking for the purposes of exploitation.
UK: COURT OF APPEAL CONFIRMS SCOPE OF ‘DOCTRINE OF MERGER’, WHICH IS DESIGNED TO PREVENT AN ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS THROUGH MULTIPLE CLAIMS IN RESPECT OF THE SAME CAUSE OF ACTION
An article on 12 August from Out-Law said that the Court in England has confirmed the scope of the doctrine which is designed to prevent an abuse of court process by preventing parties from bringing multiple claims in respect of the same cause of action
MALTA: IN THE LAND WHERE CASH IS KING, NEW RESTRICTIONS WILL BITE HARD
On 13 August, an article from Malta Today says that new rules apply to private individuals as well as companies, which means that using the internet will not exempt you from the cash restriction. Ignoring the law would incur a penalty on both the seller and buyer equivalent to 40% of the amount paid in cash in excess of €9,999.99; and requesting 2 payments of less than €10,000 will be considered as linked payments and subject to sanction. The regulations do not apply if payment for the listed goods is made by cheque, bank transfer or card. However, a 2018 survey carried out by the Central Bank of Malta showed that Maltese households were more inclined to use cash and paper-based payment instruments as the primary payment channel.
FINANCIAL REPORTING COUNCIL ANNUAL ENFORCEMENT REVIEW 2021: THE MAIN POINTS
On 11 August, a briefing from Clyde & Co said that on 29 July the FRC in the UK released its 2021 Annual Enforcement Review summarising its enforcement work over the past year. The FRC regulates auditors, accountants and actuaries. In this briefing the firm summarises the report and provides comments on the Review. It says that, as with last year, the failure of auditors to exercise professional scepticism (ISA 200) remains one of the key “live issues” in the regulation of the profession, as well as focusing on issues in connection with auditors’ preparation of audit documentation. The briefing also highlighted fraudulent use of company funds, misleading financial reporting, goodwill in companies’ assets and misleading the auditors. However, it is said that the stand out theme in the Review is not enforcement but the successful championing of the Constructive Engagement process as an alternative to full enforcement action – which the firm says should be seen as positive.
SEC EMERGENCY ACTION AND TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, AND THE APPOINTMENT OF A RECEIVER, TO STOP AN ALLEGED PONZI SCHEME AND MISAPPROPRIATION OF INVESTOR PROCEEDS PERPETRATED BY A FLORIDA RESIDENT AND 2 ENTITIES SHE CONTROLS
A release on Mondo Visione on 13 August reported that the had taken the action to stop an alleged Ponzi scheme and misappropriation of investor proceeds perpetrated by Coral Springs, Florida resident Johanna M. Garcia and 2 entities she controls.
SEC HAS ANNOUNCED EMERGENCY ACTION AND A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ASSET FREEZE AGAINST A NEW YORK INVESTOR AND 2 ENTITIES HE CONTROLS
On 13 August, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the SEC had announced the filing of an emergency action against Martin A Ruiz and 2 entities he controls, Carter Bain Wealth Management LLC and RAM Fund LP. Shortly after filing the complaint, the SEC obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Ruiz, Carter Bain, and RAM to stop an allegedly ongoing fraudulent securities offering through which Ruiz and his entities allegedly misappropriated millions of dollars from investors.
CANADA: TRUDEAU’S MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR NUCLEAR DEAL CALLED OUT BY NON-PROLIFERATION EXPERTS
An article in the Financial Post on 12 August was concerned with the announcement in May from the Swiss-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government over a deal he has approved and funded that critics say will undermine the goal of nuclear non-proliferation. It is said that prominent scientists are concerned about Canada approving a project, and subsidising it to the tune of $50.5 million, that’s being developed by a start-up called Moltex Energy to develop its new reactor technology and have it operating by the early 2030s.
NSO CYPRUS-BASED RIVAL QUADREAM IN TALKS WITH MOROCCO
On 10 August, Globes in Israel reported that Israeli company Quadream’s mobile phone hacking products do not require an Israeli Defense Ministry export licence because its parent company is based in Cyprus – citing this as an example of thebiggest winners from the international investigation of Israeli cyberattack company NSO having been its rivals.
4 JAILED FOR 24 YEARS OVER MONEY LAUNDERING AND SMUGGLING IN SAUDI ARABIA
On 14 August, Arab News reported that an investigation into money laundering and smuggling has led to 4 people being sentenced to a total of 24 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of $37.3 million, a Public Prosecution source has said.
INDIA-NORWAY JOINT VENTURE FIRM’S ASSETS SEIZED OVER MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 16 August, NDTV reported that the Enforcement Directorate had said it has attached assets of an India-Norway joint venture company in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged Gujarat Maritime Board scam. Properties attached include a plant, machinery, computers, land and building. It is alleged to have “submitted exaggerated cost of the project to the GMB and thereby misled the GMB into fixing higher tariff rates for the navigation of vessels”.
GAMBLING ADVERTISING IN THE UK: HOW IS IT REGULATED?
On 13 August, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper saying that gambling advertising has increased substantially since the 2005 Act came into force. This has led to concerns about its impact on children, young people, and vulnerable adults. The relationship between gambling and sport has come under particular scrutiny. A Government review, published in December 2020, sought views on, among other things, the impacts of gambling advertising. A call for evidence closed on 31 March, and DCMS aims to publish a White Paper setting out its next steps by the end of the year.
HOW THE UK “SUGAR TAX” REDUCED THE POPULATION’S CALORIE INTAKE
A post from the LSE on 13 August reminded one that in March 2016, the UK Government announced a national Soft Drinks Industry Levy which was enacted in April 2018. Analysing data on soft drink sales in UK grocery and convenience stores, researchers say that they have found that product reformulation was the key driver behind large levy-induced calorie reductions.
NEW EUROPOL THREAT ASSESSMENT ON IS AND AL-QAEDA’S BATTLE FOR RELEVANCE
On 13 August, Europol announced its 3rd annual report on Online Jihadist Propaganda. Focusing on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as well as their offshoots, the report addresses the trajectories of these groups, and how they have responded to shifting dynamics and attempted to overcome setbacks. The report shows that the year 2020 was a critical moment in the evolution of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, during which both groups faced major blows, and had to adapt to shifting realities to survive and stay relevant. The risk of online jihadist propaganda being translated into offline violence remains high, as propaganda from both groups continues to call for lone actor attacks by individuals who have no physical connections to either group. The news release highlights the key findings, including that IS displays increasing insurgent activity in its traditional heartlands and continuous global reach, focused on attempting a resurgence in Iraq and expanding its international presence by further empowering its global network of affiliates.
BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION AT SPORTING EVENTS SUCH AS THE OLYMPICS, WORLD CUPS AND UEFA CLUB COMPETITION FINALS CAN AND MUST BE PREVENTED
On 12 August, the Phys Org website reported that a new paper from the University of Portsmouth makes this argument, saying that with the help and advice of key people involved, the risks can be mitigated. The paper is said to have explored the perspectives of anti-corruption specialists, sport governance officials, athletes, coaches, club officials and journalists—all stakeholders in ‘sport mega-events’.
FORMER SENIOR BANKER FROM THE INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL BANK OF CHINA (ICBC) JAILED FOR LIFE FOR BRIBERY
On 13 August, Finews Asia reported that a Shanghai court sentenced Gu Guoming to life imprisonment in yet another high-profile conviction against financial executives. The former head of ICBC’s Shanghai branch, Gu is said to have taken about $21 million of bribes in exchange for favours as well as assistance to obtain bank credit and investments 2005-2019.
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